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February 23, 2019

Building SGR in Nairobi Park begins despite court order

Wild beasts seen near the standard gauge railway pillars inside the Nairobi National Park./EZEKIEL AMINGÁ
Wild beasts seen near the standard gauge railway pillars inside the Nairobi National Park./EZEKIEL AMINGÁ

Construction has started on Phase 2A of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park despite court orders halting it.

As a political and environmental compromise, the railway will now be raised on 114 concrete pillars as it crosses the park and will not touch the ground.

The lowest pillars will be seven metres high and the highest will be over 40 metres so Kenya Wildlife Service believes that animals will still enjoy free movement.

Paul Mbugua, the KWS liaison officer for SGR, insisted that disruption of wildlife will be minimised during the 14 months of construction.

"When work is complete, the effective area that will not be available to wildlife is only 0.551 acres ( the space occupied by the pillars)," Mbugua said.

Jasper Liu, Assistant Communicatioins Manager for China Road and Bridge Corporation, said they will follow KWS recommendations to minimise disruption to flora and fauna.

Read:Demo, suit planned to stop SGR plan in park

CRBC will install fences to prevent animals from falling into the SGR pillar trenches whose design and specifications and work only between 6am to 6pm.

"The SGR line over the national park will be fitted with an acoustic noise barrier whose specifications will be approved by KWS," he said.

"At the end of the super bridge construction, the contractor will embark on an appropriate vegetation restoration and soil reinstatement for the affected areas," he said.

Last week, Kenya Railways Corporation and CRBC moved equipment and more than 40 workers into the park. A stretch 100 metres wide and six kilometres long was cordoned off.

The SGR route through the park has been controversial since it was first mooted in 2015. Originally it would have cut through rhino breeding areas but it has now been routed over grassland.

However even the modified SGR highline remains very controversial.

Last Wednesday community leaders and nature enthusiasts from the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Nairobi National Park and Management marched from Freedom Corner at Uhuru Park delivering petitions to Parliament and Kenya Railways. They demanded that the government respect court orders.

"We here to remind the proponents of SGR that there is an existing court order stopping SGR through the park," said KCWCM chairman Sidney Quntai. We are demanding that it be stopped until all pending cases are settled," he said,

"If construction of the railway inside the park continues, we will ensure that individuals and heads of implementing agencies are prosecuted for contempt of court," said FONNAPadministrator Reinhard Bonke.

"As a community which borders this park, who are also experts on the environment, we had given the option to have the railway line rerouted outside the park. But they defied us, and are now hellbent in ensuring that this global gem dies," said Daniel Pasha who grew up on the edge of the park.

Dr Perez Olindo, the first African director of the Kenya National Parks Authority between 1966 and 1981, said "this public rape of our park and heritage makes me extremely sad."

KWS spokesperson Paul Gathitu recognised that there was "considerable" pressure on the park.

"Wildlife movements have been affected and migrations no longer take place as they did two decades ago," he said.

"Intensive management of the park is the way to go," he said. Wildlife numbers needed to be minitored not to exceed carrying capacity, invasive plant species need to be removed, and liquid and solid waste polllution from outside the park needed to be stopped.

He said there was a temporary easement of 41.3 hectares to the SGR during construction while the Southern bypass had taken a permanent easement of 21.7 hectares from the 11,730 hectare park.

Also Read:Okiya Omtatah, conservationist in court to block SGR phase II

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